British experts have reversed the advice they have been giving for the past 40 years that hospital is the best place for women to give birth.
More than nine out of 10 births are now in labour wards and this is far too many, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said.
“There’s no reason why women at low risk of complications during labour shouldn’t have their baby in an environment in which they feel most comfortable,” NICE’s Mark Baker said, pointing to evidence showing that midwife-led care is safer than hospital care for women having a straightforward, low risk, pregnancy.
“This is because the rate of interventions, such as the use of forceps or an epidural, is lower and the outcome for the baby is no different compared with an obstetric unit,” the updated guidelines said.
Around 45 per cent of women have a straightforward, low-risk pregnancy.
The remainder, who may benefit from a hospital admission, run the risk of complications during birth by being over 35, being overweight, bleeding after 24 weeks of gestation or having high blood pressure.
NICE said that home births are as safe as a midwife-led unit and as safe as the now traditional labour ward for low-risk pregnancies in women who are not first-time mothers.